- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bob to step on down

Bob Barker is heading toward his last showcase and his final “Come on down.”

The silver-haired daytime-TV icon is retiring in June, he told Associated Press yesterday.

“I will be 83 years old on Dec. 12,” Mr. Barker said, “and I’ve decided to retire while I’m still young. I’ve gone on and on and on to this ancient age because I’ve enjoyed it.”

Reaching dual milestones — 50 years on television and 35 with “Price,” in which contestants chosen from the crowd are invited to “come on down” to compete for “showcases” that include trips, appliances and new cars — made this an “appropriate” time to retire, Mr. Barker said. “I’m just reaching the age where the constant effort to be there and do the show physically is a lot for me.”

Mr. Barker began his national TV career in 1956 as the host of “Truth or Consequences.” He first appeared on “Price” on Sept. 4, 1972 and has been the face of the show ever since. A CBS prime-time special celebrating the show’s longevity and Mr. Barker’s five decades on TV was already under way, a network spokesman said.

To kick off his retirement, Mr. Barker said he will “sit down for maybe a couple of weeks and find out what it feels like to be bored.” Then he plans to spend time working with animal-rights causes, including his own DJ&T; Foundation, founded in memory of his late wife, Dorothy Jo, and mother, Matilda.

He said he would take on a movie role if the right one came along, but filmmakers, take note: “I refuse to do nude scenes. These Hollywood producers want to capitalize on my obvious sexuality, but I don’t want to be just another beautiful body,” Mr. Barker said.

Weighty matter

Heavy D is throwing his weight around against an insurance company that he says owes him more than a million bucks.

The rapper known as the “Overweight Lover” has filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against National Union Fire Insurance Co., seeking reimbursement for money he paid to people who sued him after a stampede that killed nine at a 1991 celebrity basketball game at New York’s City College. The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, accuses the Pittsburgh company of holding out on a $1 million insurance policy that Heavy D — whose real name is Dwight Myers — purchased in 1989.

“He hasn’t seen a dime,” attorney Paul Martin told the New York Daily News.

The fatal stampede occurred at CCNY’s Nat Holman Gymnasium during a Dec. 28, 1991, celebrity hoops benefit organized by Heavy D and Sean (Diddy) Combs. In 1999, the two rappers, along with the school, were found negligent for the stampede, which also left 29 injured. More than 5,000 tickets were sold to the game, whose star attractions included rappers and boxer Mike Tyson — but the gym’s capacity was just 2,730.

When angry ticket holders were locked out, they charged the gym’s doors, causing a panic inside that trapped dozens of people in a surging crowd.

Mr. Martin said that over the years, Heavy D, 39, has paid $791,899 in damages to the victims of the stampede. In addition, the lawsuit seeks payback for legal fees incurred by the rotund rapper, who appeared in the Oscar-winning film “The Cider House Rules” and whose hits include “Now That We’ve Found Love” and “Nuttin’ but Love.”

The insurance company refused to comment.

Kudos for Ricky

It’s gonna be a sweet November for Ricky Martin.The Puerto Rican pop star and humanitarian will be honored tonight at a dinner and concert in New York as the Latin Recording Academy’s person of the year, AP reports. Six days later, he will debut a concert performance of new and old songs from his Spanish-language repertoire, “Ricky Martin: MTV Unplugged,” on CD and DVD.

All of this feels amazing, the 34-year-old singer said, and allows him a bigger stage to spread awareness of the exploitation of children. His foundation is working to stop human trafficking, especially trafficking of youngsters.

“You start asking yourself questions about ‘Why me, why music, why fame?’ ” Mr. Martin — known best to U.S. audiences for his crossover hits “Livin’ la Vida Loca” and “Shake Your Bon-Bon” — told AP. “And I just realized it was just a step. Music is only a step for me to be able to get to know about this issue and then talk about it.”

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports

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